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Get to know your guests

27 September 2022
Many articles recently discuss whether business travel will return or not, or maybe change into bleisure or something else. Nothing tends to stay the same over time, so business travel will also change, and this time with a little push from a pandemic. Why would business travel be exempt from changing?
The travel industry is obsessed with categorizing travelers in business and leisure as the only two reasons for travel. As a result, the industry put close to 1.5 billion international arrivals into two buckets. One is 15 %, and the other is 85 % of the total number of travelers. The discussion is on what to do about the 15 % business bucket that might only recover to 75 % of the pre-pandemic volume.

These numbers are irrelevant for most hotels since a hotel is located at a specific destination and can only capture some of the demand for overnight stays. The demand depends on the reason for travel to the destination. The more good reasons to go there, the higher the demand.

Destination specific

The only way to succeed as a hotel is to understand the demand at the destination, which depends on the reasons to travel to the destination. Focus on the travel reason to understand the needs and requirements of each type of traveler. For example, a business traveler has different needs than a leisure traveler. On a more granular level, a leisure traveler bringing the whole young family has very different needs from a baby boomer couple. A hotel that wants to appeal to a specific target audience must segment the market in more detail to market the hotel to the right guests.
The starting point is to analyze the guests that have stayed at the hotel. Here are some questions that hotels need to answer to understand why, where, how, and what.


Why did the guest need to spend the night in the destination, and why at your hotel? Hotels have no idea why the guest traveled to the destination. Maybe they only know whether it is for business or leisure. Some hotels try to code a few more market segments, but the data are deficient because hotels do not dare to ask the guest. The answer to the second part of the question is even less known to hotels. Hotels do not know why guests stay at their hotel and not at a competing hotel. Hoteliers speculate and assume why, but no data proves their point of view. Hotel customer satisfaction scores have decreased because hoteliers do not understand that consumer behavior has changed during the pandemic. The guests do not need the same product and service now as they did before the pandemic, but hotels deliver precisely the same but at a higher rate. No wonder guests give the hotel a lower score in guest reviews.

From where?

The next question is where the guests come from. The guests' origin has also changed, and guests tend to come from nearer. Guests from within driving distance have increased during the pandemic. The nearby market is probably still exciting, especially since it seems to take longer for international travel to recover. When the hotel understands where the guest lives, new opportunities open to going after guests that live in the same city or nearby cities. International travel will rebound, and a hotel needs to look at the data to run campaigns to capture returning international guests.


How and when are the guest making the reservation? The distribution channel is more relevant than ever since there is a high risk that the customer acquisition cost will increase when the demand increases. Higher demand means people must spend more time looking for a reasonable rate. Booking.com, Expedia, and other websites are excellent for comparing rates and hotels. Keep track of which distribution channels guests prefer and pay attention to how far in advance the guests make the reservation. It looks like the booking window is becoming shorter, but when demand increases, it will probably become longer again to secure that the hotel is available at a reasonable rate.


The final question is what the guests buy, such as room category, rate type, packages, other products, and services. Ideally, the guest can book rooms and other spaces and make a reservation in the restaurant, the spa, tee time, or other activities. The idea here is to sell more of what the guests like and find more guests who purchase the same things.

The minimum viable data

Startups talk about creating a minimum viable product that can be sold to a customer and then further developed with the help of customers. Hotels need the minimum viable data to make sound decisions about attracting more guests and selling more to each guest. That is the only way a hotel will reach financial success.